Frederick Thomas Sargood

Frederick Thomas Sargood

Sir Frederick Thomas Sargood KCMG, (30 May 18342 January 1903) was an Australian politician, Minister of Defence and Education in the Government of Victoria 1890–1892 and Senator in the Australian Senate 1901–03.

Early life

Sargood was born in Walworth, London. He was the eldest child of Frederick James Sargood, who came to Melbourne in 1849, and became a member of the old legislative council, and Emma, daughter of Thomas Rippon, chief cashier in the Bank of England. He was educated at private schools and in 1850 followed his father to Melbourne. He initially obtained a position in the Public Works Department, but in 1851 joined his father's softgoods business, and in 1859 became a junior partner in it. In the same year he joined the Victorian volunteer artillery as a private and eventually reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He also took an interest in rifle shooting and was one of the most accurate shots in Victoria.

Political career

In May 1874 Sargood was elected a member of the Victorian Legislative Council, and in 1875 he became the first chairman of the Melbourne Harbour Trust. He visited England in 1880, and was appointed a delegate by the Victorian government to represent the colony before the Imperial Commission for the protection of British possessions abroad. He returned to Melbourne in 1882 and in March 1883 became an Honorary Minister in the James Service government. In the same year when the Defence Department was formed, he was the first Minister of Defence, and carried through the reorganization of the defences which involved the changeover from volunteer to militia forces. Rifle clubs were formed and the important cadet corps movement for schoolboys was also due to Sargood's efforts. In 1885 he took the additional portfolio of Minister of Water-supply, and held both positions until the resignation of the ministry in February 1886. He was appointed Vice-President of the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition of 1888 and subsequently Executive Vice-President and Treasurer. He was also president of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce from 1886 to 1888, and his name stood very high in the business world. When he joined his father's business it was a comparatively small one, but now under the name of Sargood Butler and Nichol it had become one of the largest in Australia, with branches in other cities. It was subsequently extended to New Zealand and before Sargood's death the number of employees was over 5000. When William Hearn died in 1888, Sargood became Leader of the Legislative Council, in which position he examined all bills coming from the Legislative Assembly and showed much critical ability. He joined the James Munro ministry in November 1890 as Minister of Fefence and of Education, but withdrew when the ministry was reconstructed under William Shiels in February 1892, because he was unable to agree with Shiels's adhesion to the "one man one vote" principle.

Although he was a conservative, Sargood had piloted the first Factories Act through the Council with ability, and in his own firm, the Saturday half-holiday had been brought in as far back as 1852. Sargood joined the George Turner government in September 1894 as Minister of Defence, but about three months later again resigned on a question of principle. He again took up the position of Leader of the Council and had a prominent part in the Federation movement. His views on the tariff prevented his being elected as one of the Victorian delegates to the 1897 convention, but at the first federal election in 1901 he was elected as one of the senators for Victoria in spite of the opposition of the protectionist press. When the Senate met he was nominated for the position of President which, however, went to Sir Richard Baker by 21 votes to 12. Sargood, however, took a leading position in the Senate.

Late life and legacy

Sargood died suddenly while on a holiday in New Zealand on 2 January 1903. He was the first serving Australian Senator to die. He was created Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1885 and was knighted KCMG in 1890. He married (1) in 1858, Marion, daughter of the Hon. George Rolfe, MLC, and (2) in 1880, Julia, daughter of James Tomlin. Lady Sargood survived him with five sons and four daughters of the first marriage, and one daughter of the second.

Sargood was a man of the finest character both in business and as a politician, shrewd, energetic, and scrupulously honest. He was prominently connected with many philanthropic and religious movements. In politics he was a good speaker and debater, with a capacity for organization and a command of details, and in his work as Defence Minister he showed wisdom, energy and foresight.

The Rippon Lea Estate was originally built for Sargood in 1868.


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